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How are your Feet managed?

by | Oct 13, 2020 | Feet (Followership), Little Feat, manage

Breakdowns are typically the places that great stories start… not end.  It is the realization that something is not working, or you are not fitting in, or the thing you have designed doesn’t work.  While it seems like a failure, it is most often a place that provides a floor for growth to begin… if you notice it. I was playing Trivia with my nephew/son and other young people at a bar in San Fransisco, and the question “who played a bicycle wheel as a musical instrument on TV in 1963”?  I immediately said “Frank Zappa”.  It was the only person who 1) could do that, 2) would be around in the early 60’s, and 3) would do it.  They shouted me down, and even though  I was right… we lost anyway… 

… but that is not the breakdown that matters. There is no Little Feat without Lowell George, and that only happened after he was fired from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Lowell was born in Hollywood, and actually played harmonica on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour at 6, before moving onto flute, guitar, saxophone, and pretty much any instrument he wanted to try out.  He didn’t like the Pop and Surf music around him, becoming interested in the West Coast Jazz movement, particularly Les McCann and Mose Allison. But like all teens, he formed a band, and started to get a following, and you can actually see his band in episodes of F Troop, Gomer Pyle, with some initial songs were produced by Frank… 

… which led George to join the Mothers in 1968 and was instantly embraced by Frank as the lead vocalist for a number of albums.  He also observed Zappa’s autocratic leadership stance, along with his interest in blending musical styles and genres.  He absorbed much of his eventual style and approach from his time, but it was a previous high school job that would change his trajectory completely.  Working to pay for his instruments, he pumped gas at a local gas station in the early 60’s and developed an interest particularly in the Truck Drivers that were regular customers.  He wrote today’s offering in 1965, and eventually played it for Frank… who depending on which version of the story you believe, 1) hated a song about drugs (Zappa was adamantly against them), 2) George was insubordinate (… takes one to know one), or 3) Frank said ” … that is a song that is good enough for you to release on your own, so you are on your own now.  You’re Fired!”

There is that point where you realize that a change is needed – as Noel Coward said as he died, “Either me, or this wallpaper, must go!”.  It is particularly painful to realize it – about someone else.  I have written about being fired before, which was actually amazingly freeing – AFTER I realized it was a good thing.  I have moved people out of organizations, and you always hope that it will end well for them – that they also will realize it is a gift, and that somewhere else will be better.  I have been working lately with a couple of leaders that are consistently pounding their head against things that likely not change.  As the lyrics say ” Well I’ve been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet, Had my head stoved in, but I’m still on my feet and I’m still, willin'”

And then I have another leader that has been waiting for others to get back to them with answers.  And.. I asked, “what would you answer if you couldn’t ask?”  A bright smile appeared.. and the look of … WOW…. And I remember that feeling distinctly.  I DO know the answer.. and I DON’T have to ask.  Like Lowell being asked to leave, it was the vote of “encouragement” he needed to step out and form this amazing band.  This was the first version released – but Lowell had injured his hand so he asked his MOI friend Ry Cooder to play his part. This is the one you likely know – a hit by Linda Ronstadt on her breakout album.  But the one I want you to hear is from WHFS radio in 1975 where she honored him by singing harmony.  His hymn to truckers is also encouragement for you to consider… are your feet where they need to be, or should you take this time to think about something new… “And you show me a sign I’ll be willin’, to be movin'”

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